WATERVILLE — The Children’s Discovery Museum announced Tuesday it will close its Augusta site permanently and focus on developing its new space on Eustis Parkway in Waterville.

“We’re excited,” Amarinda Keys, the museum’s executive director, said Tuesday. “It’s a difficult time and it’s sad to close Augusta, but I’m so excited to be moving forward with the Waterville plans.”

The Children’s Discovery Museum is closing its Augusta site and moving to Waterville. Kennebec Journal file photo by Joe Phelan

The museum has a variety of exhibits and activities that seek to ignite children’s curiosity and encourage learning through play.

The museum closed its Augusta site March 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but officials had planned to reopen it and stay open until it moved to Waterville, according to Keys. But because of all the uncertainty, she said, it made sense to not reopen Augusta and focus on Waterville.

She said it was a difficult decision to close the Augusta location, which has been a staple in the community 26 years.

“It is an emotional thing to turn the page,” Keys said, “even though we know the next chapter holds great things.”

The museum has worked for the past five years to create a new, larger space, and it plans to buy the First Congregational United Church of Christ at 7 Eustis Parkway.

“We’re still working on that (purchase),” Keys said Tuesday. “We’re trying to be able to open in some capacity before the end of the year. That’s still the goal.”

The Children’s Discovery Museum is closing its Augusta site and moving to the First Congregational United Church of Christ, above, on Eustis Parkway in Waterville.

Kavestone LLC will help the museum move its large exhibits to the church this weekend, according to Keys. Most of the space will house new exhibits, she said.

The museum is working with FieldMagnet LLC, a design firm in South Portland, to create the new exhibits and design and fabricate the new exhibit hall, she said.

FieldMagnet is now finishing up the initial design, and construction is slated to start in the fall, she said.

The Waterville City Council in January 2019 voted to rezone the church property from Residential-B to Contract Zoned District/Commercial-A to allow the museum to move there. The contract zone stipulates the building may only be used as a children’s museum, a day care center and the existing church.

Meg Loubier, president of the museum’s board of directors, wrote in a prepared statement that officials are excited about the plans.

“While it is difficult to close the museum in Augusta,” she wrote, “we are looking forward to focusing all of our attention on bringing the new space to fruition.”

Keys said while the museum’s exhibit space will no longer be in Augusta, the organization plans to continue offering a variety of programs in the Augusta area, including Movies in the Park, in collaboration with the Augusta Downtown Alliance; the annual Fairies & Gnomes Festival in Hallowell; outdoor-based summer camps; and pop-up programs with the Mobile Museum traveling exhibit pieces.

“We are so grateful to this community for being part of the museum family in so many different ways,” Keys said. “And we are looking forward to serving an even larger community of children in the future.”

She said those seeking more information about birthday deposits and prorated membership refunds should contact [email protected]

Built in 1966, the 14,000-square-foot church has about 125 members, its pastor, Mark Wilson, said last year. Before 1966, the church was on Temple Street for 160 years, behind where the current Colby College residential complex is now.

Some current church members also attended the Temple Street church, which was demolished as part of urban renewal efforts many years ago.

Church officials have said they plan to keep the church alive and hope to move to another location in Waterville.

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